Brazil launched a probe, on Monday, into allegations that local companies cooperated with U.S. agencies to collect private telecommunications data from the country as part of the U.S.' secretive surveillance program, while President Dilma Rousseff said that the country would address the issue at the United Nations.
"If there was any involvement of other countries, of other businesses that aren't Brazilian, then it's certainly a violation of our sovereignty, without a doubt, just like it's a violation of human rights," Rousseff said, according to local media reports.
"Now, we have to look at things without prejudgment, we have to investigate … We do not agree, under any circumstances, with such meddling, not just in Brazil but in any other country," she added.
The decision to examine domestic companies’ alleged complicity with U.S. spy agencies came after a leading daily, O Globo, reported earlier in the week that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on communications on Brazilian territory with the help of local telecoms.
The newspaper, which cited documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, said that the U.S. agency had a facility in the capital, Brasilia, to gather and process intercepted communications gathered globally from foreign satellites, until at least 2002. However, the report said it couldn't confirm whether the data center exists at present.
Brazilian regulator Anatel confirmed the probe and said in a statement that "it's worth clarifying that the confidentiality of data and telephone communications is a right guaranteed by the constitution, by our laws and by Anatel's regulations. Its violation is punishable in civil, criminal and administrative realms."
Brazil’s communications minister Paulo Bernardo told reporters in Brasilia, on Monday morning, that he believes Brazilian citizens and institutions were spied upon.
"Even the European Parliament was monitored — you think that we weren't?" Bernardo said, according to an Associated Press report. “Now the circumstances in which this was carried out, the exact way and when, this we must verify," he added.
However, Bernardo after meeting U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon on Monday afternoon, said that the ambassador denied the allegations of violating Brazilian citizens’ privacy rights.
"He denied that there is such monitoring here in Brazil, he said that there never was a data center and that there is no agreement with Brazilian companies to collect data in Brazilian territory," Bernardo said, according to the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency.
The NSA documents, dated September 2010, published in the O Globo reports, suggest that the NSA and CIA targeted the Brazilian embassy in Washington and the Brazilian mission to the U.N. in New York. The newspaper also said that the NSA and CIA obtained Brazilian communications through U.S. companies that were partners with local telecom companies.
The Brazilian Senate's foreign relations committee said it would invite Ambassador Shannon, journalist Glenn Greenwald who first broke the story of U.S. PRISM surveillance, and concerned Brazilian officers to testify at a special hearing this week, according to a Reuters report.
Shannon isn't obliged to testify and it remains unclear whether he will do so.